ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Runaway Marriages

A Silent Revolution?


The web version of this article corrects a few errors that appeared in the print edition.

Legal opinion in some quarters refuses to acknowledge the irreversibility of the change brought about by the revolt against or defiance of age-old norms. This refusal is revealed in the negative opinions, especially of women who run away to marry out of their caste. The underlying beliefs in "equality of all" and "humanism", which seem to give a lot of these women the courage to break free of caste and marry the men of their choice, are not given any credence. This paper, based on fieldwork in Punjab, argues that such views are based less on fact and more on prejudice - the "seen-unseen" - letting a silent revolution go unnoticed.

I am very grateful to Divya and Rajeev Godara for their guidance, support and friendship during and after my fi eldwork in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to the lawyers in the Ladies Bar Room for generously sharing numerous stories and their home-cooked lunches on everyday of my fi eld visit in March and December 2011, and to Anupam Gupta for spirited discussions on legal matters. Without Kirpal Hira, my highly committed research assistant, the fi eldwork on runaway marriages would not have been successfully carried out. At different stages of data collection, related papers were presented to the British Association for South Asian Studies annual conference (Southampton, April 2011), Annihilation of Caste conference (Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, November 2011), in-house seminar (Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Delhi, January 2012), and the School of Law, Social Sciences and Communications annual staff conference (Wolverhampton, July 2012). I am very grateful to Ghanshyam Shah, Raj Kumar Hans, Mary John and Vasanthi Raman for invitations to present my work-in-progress at Shimla and Delhi. Too numerous to name individually, I thank the participants of these academic gatherings for their observations and queries. I thank William Pawlett for sharing theoretical sources in ethnography and social theory. Finally, I offer my heartfelt thanks to Tanya Singh for her incisive comments on the fi nal write-up and to Pritam Singh for his generosity in carefully reading and commenting on successive drafts.

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